Help required in England.


Curious about Wooden Canoes
This is my first visit to this forum, please be patient with me, I have enough trouble turning the computer on. let alone communicating!.

I am in possesion of what is apparently a wide board canoe.
Being new to the canoe world I will need a little help.
I wish to restore this canoe to a condition whereby it can be used but
I am cautious about what materials to use to complete the task.
The age of the canoe has not been established. In the canoe craft book there is a picture of the exact pattern on page 180 (the canoe in the foreground left).
The canoe is made of three boards, possibly cedar on ribs which are approximately 6 inch centres. It has a small keel running full length and a similar timber inside.
It has outwhales but no inwhales. the planks are secured using copper nails.
There is a small hole in the (rear?)deck which would take either a mast or a rudder.
I don't think it's relevant but it has the name lomax painted on the bow.
I have the following questions.

1. Any idea of approximate age / scarcity ?

2. What timbers were used. I think the inner and outer keel and outwhales are oak but I am not sure about the ribs. Ash or Oak?.I am fairly sure the planking is cedar.

3. The planks had shrunk due to them being extremely dry after being stored in a barn for years. I have put the canoe upside down on the roof of my old land rover to allow moisture to penetrate the boards. The boards have grown back to create a better fit. How can I keep the boards in good shape?. I don't want to enbalm the canoe in modern epoxy as this is irreversible and seems inapropriate.

4. I have been advised to apply danish oil or boiled linseed. Before I do is this the best thing to do?.

5. If the boards don't grow back fully to meet what should I caulk the canoe with. I was considering cutting slivers of cedar and glueing them as a filler.
Anything better to use?.

If you would like to see photographs of this canoe you could E mail me on I will forward the photographs directly to your Email.

i thank you in advance of the assistance and attention given to this matter and eagerly await your response.

regards Simon, Ampthill, Bedfordshire, England.
Oh I forgot. It has metal plates securing the thwarts with the inscription
It is eighteen feet long and three feet wide.
Hello Simon,

Welcome to the WCHA forums. The thwart metal tags identify the builder as Canadian Canoe Co in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada if the tags are original. This company was in business between 1892 and 1961. Their offering of wide board canoes was produced from 1892 to sometime in the late 1930’s. The company’s 18 ft “all wood canoes” had the model # 9 and was made in 8 grades, quality A to H.

Your canoe was built sometime between 1892 and late 1930’s and of quality E or F.
The planking is made of basswood or cedar. The ribs are made of rock elm or oak.

You should not apply any caulking or glue any wood slivers in the planking seem. This type of canoes relays on the swelling of the boards and the inside battens to seal water out. If the planking, ribs and battens still are in good condition the canoe should seal up after a soaking. A good bedding compound can occasionally be used if the seams are not too wide. Photographs would help a great deal. If you send me a couple of photos we can get them posted to the forum.

Dick Persson
Headwater Wooden Boat Shop
The information you have passd on is great. I am enquiring because I am going to see the timber merchant. I am buying western red cedar to replace one of the planks. There are other areas which require 'patches'.
Should I fit the new planks when they are kiln dried or let them adopt the ambient moisture before cutting to size and fitting?.
I have removed a a bit of rib and cleaned it up. It doesn't look like oak, it doesn't smell like oak. I burnt some and it didn't smell like oak smoke.
I think the ribs must be rock elm. We don't get rock elm over here. I have E-mailed my brother who lives in Bancroft Canada to see if he can source some. If I cannot get rock elm to replace the rotted ribs what would be a good alternative. Should I use oak and or would something like maple or ash be good?.
The metal plates are original.
What is the hole in the deck for ?. It did have three screws fixing an escutcheon which has gone astray.
Should the planking be treated with anything, oil etc?
What exactly is the stuff you say I could place in the joints if they are too wide?.
Sorry for the onslaught of questions but I have been in the dark about what to do and I am keen to get on with it.

Thank you for the reply.
Here are the photos you forwarded to me.


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Dear Simon,

From what I can judge from the photos this canoe need “a lot of help” to be usable. You need to replace at least half of the ribs, keelson, keel, outside stems a number of battens and likely both garboards. The photos also show splits in the bilge and sheer planking along the nails were fastened to the battens.

Western red cedar is not a good choice for a wide-board canoe, you need white cedar or basswood and of a very high grade. I would guess that the ribs are rock elm. If you can’t get rock elm use oak. The hole in the deck is for a mast ring.

This is a major restoration job you are going to embark on! I suspect that by the time you are done there might not be much of the original canoe left.

Dick Persson
Headwater Wooden Boat Shop
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Excellent information thank you very much.
To make things a little clearer a couple of further questions.
You say white cedar is a good planking material. I have no information on white cedar and I suspect it may be known by a different name over here. Do you know it's latin species name?.
Were these canoe not treated with anything on the outside when they were made?.
I am feel confident now and will obtain the oak and machine myself a quantity of rib material.
I think I will replace those (one at a time) before anything else as I believe this will add strenght to the structure.
I am looking forward to taking this canoe (unfiinished) to France with me when I move over there in February. There are some great rivers and lakes. I am moving to the Limousin,to an area locally known as 'little Canada'.
I will keep you all updated and no doubt be sending a few more questions.
The forum is great and the response has been superb.
Thank you.

White-cedar, Thuja Occidentalis, Eastern Arborvitae, Northern White-cedar are some of the popular names for this treasured wood. However, I suspect that it is easier to find good quality basswood than white-cedar in Europe. Both white-cedar and basswood were used for wide-board canoes, but basswood was by far the most used wood for this construction method and what I would choose. It looks as if your canoe has both cedar as well as basswood boards.

Many of the makers of wide-board canoes soaked or treated them with linseed or china oil until completely saturated. Make sure that the varnish and/or paint you use is compatible with the type of oil you used.

Dick Persson
Headwater Wooden Boat Shop
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Can't see the wood for the trees.

I have spent several hours on the computer and phone trying to source timber here in Britain. I have found a small quantity of basswood, not wide enough or long enough to do the job required. The supplier suggested that English lime is almost identical. I am going to follow this up and use that unless anyone out there says not to.
As for the white cedar it is just not possible top get it over here. Any suggestions for a similar timber. Should I use English lime throughout.

With reference to the linseed oil, is that raw or boiled?.

Thank you again for your assistance in this matter.

Regards Simon in England.
Different Wood Species

I am not the expert here on this construction and Dick can probably offer solid advice but my concern would be different wood species and the rate they will swell and seal the hull? Maybe others can chime in on this issue.

All the best,

Ric Altfather
Dear Simon,

American basswood and European linden or Common lime, are both of the Tilia family. In my experience that does not mean that they necessarily have the same qualities. I don’t know enough regarding Common lime to advice. I believe, though, that Common lime is a much heavier wood.

The American basswood has a fine tight and straight grain, creamy white in color and is light weight. It shrinks a fair deal in width and thickness during drying, so great care is needed in planning your work. When dry, the wood is stable and does not warp or split easily. It is my understanding that a full range are exported to Europe.

Dick Persson
Headwater Wooden Boat Shop
Wood sources


Not to send you elsewhere, but you might post a question regarding sources of wood on the WoodenBoat Forum. There are a bunch of folks on there from Across the Pond that may be able to help you find appropriate wood locally.

I found this information about Scottish Lime.

ASHS Timber Info:
Scottish Lime: You can get reasonably large boards in lime; lime boles can be up to 15 metres, with diameters up to 1.2 metres. Scottish lime is available but in relatively small quantities of varying colour and quality.
Grain: Straight grained.
Strength: Low stiffness and shock resistance - hence its fame as a timber that doesn’t split very easily - but medium bending and crushing strength. Not as strong as the benchmark European beech.
Density: Lime has a density around 540kg per cubic metre at 12% moisture content, making it less dense than European larch, but slightly denser than Douglas fir.
Structure: Texture of lime is fine, indicating diffuse porous structure, with few visible features.
Durability and Drying: Heartwood perishable; sapwood liable to attack by common furniture beetle. Dries well and fairly quickly with some tendency to distort.
Colour & Figure: Lime is a creamy colour, but will become browner on exposure to light.
Looking good

Thanks for all the information. I am really impressed by the response.
I am now at the stage where I intend to rub down the hull to clear off all the old varnish and the bright orange paint on the bottom. It is my intention to retain as much of the original timber as possible. this will mean there will be localised repairs to existing boards. I am not looking for a canoe that looks like it did the day it was made. I would like a canoe that will be servicable on the lake near to our home in France. If, in time these repairs don't hold out then I still have the option of replacing whole boards.
I am a carpenter/ joiner by trade and I am familiar with steaming techniques etc.
For the time being I think I will replace the board which has been damaged beyond repair with a lime board. If it turns out this doesn't work then I can replace it with a more suitable timber.

I would appreciate some direction on linseed oil. I understand that raw oil doesn't harden and the boiled does. Further to that would it be appropriate to thin the oil with turpentine to aid penetration of the wood.

I have suggested to my brother Harry in Bancroft Ontario to pop round with a few beers for Mr Persson. Trouble is Ontario is a big place, could be miles away!!.

Thank you again for your assistance in this enquiry.

Regards Simon.
I would appreciate some direction on linseed oil. I understand that raw oil doesn't harden and the boiled does. Further to that would it be appropriate to thin the oil with turpentine to aid penetration of the wood.

You've answered your own question... Use boiled linseed oil whenever you want it to dry (cure), i.e. when applying it to your canoe or using it as a component of canoe filler. Use raw linseed oil when you don't want it to cure, e.g for storing your good brushes between use.


A couple of points before you embark on the plank repairs.
Do not fit the replacement plank too tightly; leave a little space between planks for expansion. Those wide boards move quite a bit across the grain. This is the reason for using straight grained high quality stock, preferably quarter-cut with a ca 30 degree grain angle.

In the old times a cracked or split board was repaired by adding battens inside, backing up the crack. Another way is to clean and open up the split with a router equipped with a V-bit and glue in a shaped piece of appropriate wood.

I accept the offer of “Canadian nectar” anytime.

Dick Persson
England is such a lovley country, but they should put a roof over it

I am still trying to source white cedar and have drawn a blank. I have placed posts on the forums here in England. This has produced a number of specialist timber yards who deal specifically with marine applications. They cannot supply white cedar.
I am curious as to why red cedar is inappropriate. Is it due to it's properties or is it simply because it isn't the original material ?.
I am in the process of preserving the canoe by oiling the planks before I start to replace ribs etc. Is there a specific varnish I should use over linseed oil. I contacted the guys at rustins and they suggested a solvent based varnish. This doesn't seem right to me. Any thoughts?.

Onwards ever upwards!!

Regards Simon.
Western red cedar was typically not used on wide-board canoes. It was available, so it must have been its properties that discouraged its use. My own experience with it is that it is more brittle than northern white cedar, so more susceptible to splitting. Western red cedar was used on canvas canoes, but limited to planking up to 3" wide and 5/32" thick. Western red cedar is also more difficult to bend than northern white cedar (again, explaining why we see white cedar ribs and red cedar planking in canvas canoes). It would probably be quite difficult to get wide red cedar boards to conform to the canoe shape without splitting. In addition to white cedar and basswood, I have seen a few quite rare wide-board canoes planked with Spanish-cedar, which is a form of mahogany.

As for varnish, yes, you will need a solvent based varnish to apply over linseed oil. I always recommend good, traditional spar varnishes such as Z-spar Captain's or Epifanes. Avoid polyurethane varnishes.
Getting there.....

I have the oak for the ribs and a board which is not white cedar. I found a close grained softwood board from an architectural salvage place. It is old and so the grain is very close and it is quite hard. I will fit this as a temporary measure until I can locate a better piece.
Would the ribs and planks have a glued joint or would they be dry nailed to allow for movement?.

Thank you in advance for your response

Hope your move to France has gone well! Happy New Year also. As I was going through the Builders and Suppliers list for the WCHA today I noticed a builder in England. His business name is "Moosehead Canoes & Paddles" He may be able to help you find the wood you need. Good luck.Denis